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OPINION

Who lives in ‘glass houses’? Not Andrea Campbell.

In what looks like payback for raising questions about police funding, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association is trying to taint Campbell with the alleged wrongdoing of her brother.

Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell announced her bid for mayor in Roxbury on Sept. 24.
Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell announced her bid for mayor in Roxbury on Sept. 24.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

When William M. Bulger was president of the Massachusetts Senate, he was touted as the good brother who should not be held responsible for the criminal activities of his bad brother, Whitey. Viewed through the same prism, Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell should be seen as the good sister.

Instead — in what looks like payback for raising questions about grant money meant for the Boston Police Department — the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association is trying to taint Campbell with the alleged wrongdoing of her brother, Alvin R. Campbell Jr., who has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault.

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An unpleasant exchange between Campbell and the police union unfolded after the Boston Herald reported Campbell was holding up $1.2 million in police funds, and the BPPA, via Twitter, expressed “astonishment given the recent explosion of violence in our city.” In response, Campbell tweeted that she’s still waiting to hear from the BPPA “on why they enabled and elevated an accused child molester” — a reference to Patrick Rose Sr., the former officer who kept his job and became head of the BPPA despite a child assault complaint that dated back to the 1990s. To that, the BPPA replied that “people who live in glass houses” should refrain from talk about “enabling criminals” — a jab that was widely read as a reference to Campbell’s relatives.

A graduate of Boston Latin, Princeton, and UCLA Law, Campbell is a success story, someone who has done all she can to break from her family’s cycle of trouble. Her twin brother, Andre, died in state custody at 29, and other family members have criminal records. In 2019, her brother Alvin Campbell Jr. was charged with sexual assault after picking up a woman who was waiting for an Uber outside a bar near TD Garden and then driving her to Rhode Island, where he allegedly raped her. According to the Suffolk district attorney’s office, he allegedly posed as an Uber driver to target intoxicated women leaving nightspots in downtown Boston between 2017 and 2019. Last month, he was charged with assaulting a ninth woman and is being held in custody. Campbell has expressed support for the women.

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Those are serious charges, but Andrea Campbell isn’t responsible for her brother’s alleged crimes. The BPPA’s effort to connect her to them is petty and unprofessional. Campbell told GBH she considered the BPPA attack “racist” and “sexist.” In an interview with me, she said the union has “a pattern of making it personal … for a whole bunch of electeds.” Asked if she believes the BPPA is trying to hurt her politically, she said, “That’s a question for them. It could be, I don’t know.”

Via e-mail, BPPA president Larry Calderone at first said he was “more than willing” to talk about police funding. He then said he had a heavy schedule and we were unable to connect.

Campbell, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, has been a strong voice for police reform. The two grants at issue include $800,000 for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, which operates out of BPD headquarters and targets money to fight gangs and terrorism, and a $300,000 grant that targets youth violence. In a statement sent via e-mail by her campaign spokesperson, Campbell said, “The Police Department, the Administration, and I all recognize the troubling racial disparities that exist in our policing and agree that the City must have a plan to eradicate them, including shifting practices in the BRIC and use of the gang database, which is why these grants are still under review. All this can happen while ensuring adequate neighborhood coverage which will require the department to shift culture and structure.”

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In her interview with me, Campbell noted, “If the union was concerned about these two grants, they could have called me.” Instead, she said, the BPPA turned to Twitter. “I have real concerns with a bargaining unit that behaves in this way.”

Apparently, the union would rather troll politicians on Twitter than talk about serious reform. Yet the police should have great respect for people like Andrea Campbell, who fight their way out of challenging circumstances.

Bill Bulger ultimately paid a price for loyalty to his family. He resigned as president of the University of Massachusetts, under pressure for not helping a federal investigation into Whitey Bulger, who was ultimately caught, convicted, and murdered in prison.

Unless Campbell compromises her integrity in some way regarding her brother, she should be judged on her own merits, not on her family tree.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.